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Régis Roinsard • Director of The Translators

“It’s important to play”


- We talked to Régis Roinsard, director (and magic aficionado) of the opening film of this year’s Les Arcs Film Festival, The Translators

Régis Roinsard • Director of The Translators
(© Aurélie Lamachère / Les Arcs Film Festival)

Boasting an international cast including Lambert Wilson, Olga Kurylenko, Riccardo Scamarcio and Sidse Babett Knudsen, Régis Roinsard’s whodunit The Translators [+see also:
interview: Régis Roinsard
film profile
, the opening film of this year’s Les Arcs Film Festival, sees a group of, well, translators, summoned to translate the third part of a best-selling trilogy in absolute seclusion. And yet the first pages of the novel suddenly start appearing online.

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Cineuropa: Good old whodunits seem to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance these days, with Rian Johnson’s Knives Out leading the way. Is that why you wanted to make your own?
Régis Roinsard
: Even since I was little, I was well-versed in the works of Hitchcock, but also Agatha Christie. My parents adored her novels. I read them too, but I was more interested in her as a person – after all, she was one of the first female authors in England to achieve that kind of success. She was loved, but also despised, sometimes just because she was a woman. There was even a moment in her life when she just disappeared! I found that fascinating.

There are moments of lightness here, even though the film goes into dark territory more often than not.
It’s always hard to find the right tone of a film. I think that, ultimately, it ended up being much darker than it was first implied in the script, but now the humour is also much stronger – especially in these very dramatic scenes. I often think about this paradox, which can also be felt in our lives. Even during the “lightest” moments we can still feel the darkness approaching, and vice versa.

It was interesting to see most of the cast standing on stage in Les Arcs, mentioning how wonderful it was to work with people of different nationalities and backgrounds. Was that satisfying for you as well?
It took us a year to complete the casting. It was a struggle to find the right actors for the roles, obviously, but also ones that would speak fluent French. They are playing translators, so you expect them to have mastered the language. I really wanted to work with an international cast. My first film, Populaire [+see also:
film review
making of
film profile
, was screened all over the world, I travelled to so many places and so for this one, I chose the countries I visited and got to know a little over time. What was interesting is that the Greek actor [Manolis Mavromatakis] understands French very well, but he doesn’t speak it. When I met him in Paris, he explained that to me – before, he just memorised the lines phonetically. At first I was a bit dubious, because I like to improvise on set. But he more than held his own and even became a sort of father-figure to the whole crew. When his work was done, people had tears in their eyes.

Now I understand why his character comes across as a bit of an outsider. They are all so different, in fact: one looks like Lisbeth Salander, the other is an actual Bond girl.
I wanted to play with all these mythologies. Olga Kurylenko’s Katerina feels like someone straight from a Hitchcock movie, or a novel by Daphne du Maurier, and [Maria Leite’s] Telma really does resemble Salander. Sidse Babett Knudsen was in Inferno, and one of the starting points for the film was an article I read about 12 translators who were kept in isolation somewhere in Italy in order to translate that Dan Brown novel. When I first heard about it, I just couldn’t believe it. So I would say it was all to play with the viewer, because in a way it’s a story about people who are forced to become actors, busy playing a certain part. With the cast, we saw The Breakfast Club together as there is some connection to our film, I believe. These are people similarly confined to one space, strangers who slowly get to know one another. Also, in that film, all the actors were very young at the time, at the very beginning of their careers, so this sense of play was very palpable. I wanted to bring that into The Translators.

You seem to comment on “spoiler-free” culture in the film. Do you think that knowing some details really ruins the whole experience for the audience?
It certainly says something about our world. Everyone wants to know the ending, as soon as possible, before taking the time to actually watch or read anything. You can see it in the way people watch or rather consume visual content, and that’s why it was so fantastic to show this film at Les Arcs. Sure, I watch things on streaming services too, but it’s just not the same. Of course you don’t want to have spoilers, but I believe it’s important to play, to amuse the viewer and maybe manipulate him or her a bit. Just like you do when you are showing a magic trick. I can’t perform them myself, at least not yet, but I talk to magicians quite often. Woody Allen is one, Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau used to do magic too. Let’s allow ourselves to be swept away.

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